CVIndependent

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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

I wish were using this space to discuss the results of the third annual Best of Coachella Valley readers’ poll—and explain how we received an all-time-high number of votes, and gush about how proud I am that our list of winners and finalists represents all parts of the valley.

I wish I were using this space to discuss the inaugural Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Week—and tell you all about how the week was an amazing success that featured amazing cocktails, lots of fun and thousands of dollars going to two amazing charities.

However, I feel compelled to instead discuss the president-elect of the United States.

Barring something freaky coming out of the proposed recounts and challenges, and despite the popular-vote results, it’s undeniable: Donald Trump won, fair and square. He deserves significant credit for confounding the experts and the establishment, and for tapping into and exploiting the serious concerns and pain being felt by many people across this great country.

However, that does not mean that his behavior during the campaign can or should be forgotten or forgiven.

Just like it’s undeniable that Trump won, fair and square, it’s also undeniable that he said and did some despicable things on his way to that win. He mocked the disabled. He demeaned women. He threatened the rights of LGBT individuals. He said things about Mexicans, Muslims and African Americans that were flat-out racist. He demonized the media. And by doing all of these awful things, he sent a message to racists, sexists and other haters across the country that it’s OK to feel and act that way.

As a small-business owner, I am petrified about what Trump could do to the economy. As a caring human, I am fearful of what he, his surrogates and his fans could do to Muslims, women, refugees and anyone else who is not a straight white man. As a reporter and journalist, I am downright pissed about the crap he’s said about the media—specifically newspapers that have exposed his lies, his deception and his wrongdoing.

However, I am not just petrified, fearful and pissed off. I am also motivated.

Since we published our first articles online more than four years ago, the mission statement of the Coachella Valley Independent has included this statement: We believe in true, honest journalism: We want to afflict the comfortable, and comfort the afflicted.

We and the rest of the country’s alternative media are on alert. We realize that our work is more important than ever. We’re watching.

By the way, pick up the December 2016 print edition of the Coachella Valley Independent, hitting streets all across the valley this week. As always, thanks for reading.

Published in Editor's Note

One of my favorite idioms, often attributed to President John F. Kennedy, is: “A rising tide lifts all boats.”

This phrase came to mind one recent morning when I woke up to an email from a manager at a local business. He had agreed to participate in an event with the Independent on the day before, but then changed his mind when he realized the event has an advertising element.

“We have never paid for advertising, and we never will,” the manager wrote.

That phrase, frankly, pissed me off. After all, advertising is what keeps the lights on here at the Independent, and it funds all of the journalism that we do here.

My response to him: “I’m a bit befuddled when you say (your business) ‘never will’ advertise. Seeing as I’ve put every dime (and then some) I have into creating a local business that tries to cover our valley in an ethical, honest, meaningful and substantial way, I’m confused as to why (your business) would categorically rule out supporting my business, when I’ve supported (your business) with my dollars plenty over the years.”

Of course, not all businesses can or should advertise with the Independent (or any other media source, for that matter), and a simple “no thanks” wouldn’t have bothered me in the least. What did bother me is the blanket statement; I read it as saying, more or less: We will never support your business under any circumstances.

On a personal level, I’ll most likely take my dollars elsewhere—to businesses that believe in and support what we do here at the Independent.

Because, well, a rising tide lifts all boats.


In other news, we’ve recently launched two brand-new columns.

In the Opinion section, veteran local writer and broadcaster Steve Kelly is now writing a sports column for us. You can read his inaugural piece, on College of the Desert’s athletic director, Gary Plunkett, here.

As for the Food and Drink section, give a hearty welcome to Kevin Carlow and his new cocktails column. His debut column, on the yumminess of mescal, can be found here.

Be sure to pick up the November 2016 print edition of the Coachella Valley Independent; it’s hitting streets this week. Not only is it our annual special Pride Issue; it includes the program for the Independent’s Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Week, taking place Nov. 11-19.

Happy Pride; enjoy Craft Cocktail Week; and as always, thanks for reading.

Published in Editor's Note

October has always been a special month for us here at the Coachella Valley Independent, because it was in October three years ago that we moved from a quarterly print schedule to become a monthly in print.

Well, now it’s time for us to take another big step: The Coachella Valley Independent will spend the month of October finalizing the details of our first signature event.

Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Week will take place Nov. 11-19. Bars and restaurants valley-wide will be invited to create a special craft cocktail, and offer it for sale for $6 during those nine days. Bars and restaurants will be asked to donate at least $2 from the sales of that special cocktail to our charities: The LGBT Community Center of the Desert’s Community Food Bank, and the Desert AIDS Project’s Food Depot.

The week will also include a variety of events. Participating restaurants and bars will be invited to offer special cocktail classes and cocktail-paired meals—and celebrate the art of the cocktail in any way they choose.

We’ll also be holding two major events during Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Week. Our Non-Alcoholic Cocktail Competition will feature various valley bartenders competing to see who can create the most delicious drink without using any liquor or spirits. After all, people who don’t drink alcohol shouldn’t just be stuck with coffee, tea, juice or soda, right?

The biggest event of them all will take place the evening of Thursday, Nov. 17: The Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Competition will be held at the Purple Palms Restaurant at the gorgeous Colony Palms Hotel. Local comedian Shann Carr will host as eight of the Coachella Valley’s top bartenders and mixologists battle it out in the Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Cocktail Championship. Attendees and an esteemed panel of judges will both vote to determine the winners. (Yes, attendees will get to try all of the cocktails!)

More details will unfold in the month to come; visit pscraftcocktails.com for updates. Also, be sure to pick up the November edition of the Independent, which will feature a special pullout section explaining everything about the event.

If you know of a bar or restaurant that should be involved, drop me a line at the email address below!

In the meantime … you might have heard that an election is approaching. We have done a whole lot of election coverage—with even more yet to come. In fact, our election coverage is on the cover of our October print edition, which is hitting streets valley-wide this week.

As always, thanks for reading, and please email me with any feedback you may have.

Published in Editor's Note

There are many alternative-newspaper editors out there who would take one look the story we put on the cover of our September print edition and instantly declare that I, your humble editor, am a total moron.

Stories about water-district boards, as a general rule, don’t sell newspapers. (Thank goodness the Independent is free, right?) So why, you might ask, did I decide to put a story about a water-district board on one of the only 12 covers the Independent has in year?

The answer is simple: This mundane-sounding story is really important.

It’s important for Coachella Valley residents to know that until two years ago, white people basically made up the entire board of the Coachella Valley Water District, the valley’s largest water agency, even though a third of the residents within the CVWD are Latino. It’s vital to know that many people within the CVWD boundaries don’t have access to safe, clean drinking water—largely because these people were never on the minds of the CVWD board members.

It’s crucial for the public to understand that while positive changes seem to finally be coming to the Coachella Valley Water District, there’s a lot of work to do—and it’s the public’s job to make sure that work actually gets done.

So … that’s why Kevin Fitzgerald’s excellent-if-not-so-sexy story on Castulo Estrada and his work on the CVWD board is on the cover for September. (Thank goodness designer Mark Duebner is talented enough to come up with a compelling piece of cover art, no matter the story!)

In completely unrelated news: It’s Best of Coachella Valley time again! Voting is now open in the first round of our annual readers’ poll. For more details, head to our Best of Coachella Valley page!

Be sure to follow the rules; for example, you have to vote in at least 15 categories; you need to put down your full name; and you need to provide a real, working email address. (If our test email bounces, we delete the ballot!) If we see more than a handful ballots coming from the same IP address, we’ll investigate to make sure the electronic ballot box is not being stuffed.

First-round voting takes place through Monday, Sept. 26. After that, the top three to five vote-getters in each category will advance to the final-round vote, which takes place throughout October. The winners and placement of the other finalists will be announced here at CVIndependent.com on Monday, Nov. 28, and in the December print edition. Email me if you have any questions!

As always, thanks for reading. Also: Be sure to pick up a copy of the September 2016 print edition of the Coachella Valley Independent, hitting streets throughout the valley this week!

Published in Editor's Note

When we decided to put a story about police-involved killings on the cover of our July print edition, we had no idea that the month would be dominated by news about police-involved killings—and the killings of police.

Yet that’s exactly what happened. The deaths of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La., and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minn., sparked yet more outrage about the excessive use of force by law-enforcement officers. The country watched in horror as Micah Johnson mowed down police officers who were watching over a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas, killing five officers and injuring nine other officers and two bystanders. Then came the murder of three law enforcement officers, and the wounding of three others, again in Baton Rouge, La., by Gavin Long.

These terrible deaths prove, yet again, that our country has some deep and serious problems. Way, way too many people are dying at the hands of law enforcement. On the flip side, while the vast majority of police officers in this country are fantastic, some troubled souls view all cops as being bad. And, of course, systemic racism is alive and well.

None of these problems will be solved overnight—especially considering the fact that one of this country’s two major parties is pushing an agenda that marginalizes LGBT Americans, Mexican immigrants, Muslims and many others. Sadly, more blood will be spilled before things get better.

That’s not to say there’s no reason for optimism. That aforementioned July cover story was about the fact that for the first time ever, the country has access to the fairly complete Fatal Encounters database of law-enforcement-related deaths—and that data can be analyzed and used to create better public policy.

It’s also important to note that violent-crime rates are much, much lower today—about two-thirds lower, in fact—than they were in the early 1990s. So even though it may not seem like it at times, our society today is way safer than it used to be.

Finally, despite all of the political rancor, many amazing people are working hard to unite us and develop understanding. For example, there’s Tizoc DeAztlan, a young local Democrat who’s working with his friend Hugh Van Horn, former president of the Coachella Valley Young Republicans, to hold a series of “Perspectives” discussion groups. Anita Rufus recently wrote about him in her Know Your Neighbors column; read that here.

You can also read Anita’s column in the August 2016 print edition of the Coachella Valley Independent, which is being distributed across the valley and High Desert this week. Enjoy, please, and drop me a line if you have any questions or comments.

Published in Editor's Note

I’ll never forget how I felt when I posted the first articles on CVIndependent.com.

On one hand, it was frustrating as hell. I was posting those first articles—mostly short event previews that I knew nobody would ever read—as I built the website from the ground up using an open-source content-management system.

It’s safe to say I didn’t necessarily know what I was doing, technology-wise. While my web-developer husband was around to help me when I got truly stuck, I was largely on my own—and there were several times when I launched into profanity-laced snits when the frustration became too much.

On the other hand … the experience was beyond exhilarating. Frustration aside, I knew I was taking the first steps toward building something that had the potential to become truly special.

Well, we’ve come a long way. More than 3 1/2 years have passed since I posted those first stories—and we’ve reached a milestone: On April 30, we posted our 3,000th piece at CVIndependent.com. (If you’re keeping score, this is No. 3,013).

Join Independent staffers, contributors, friends and readers as we celebrate this occasion on Tuesday, May 10, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill, 350 S. Indian Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. It’ll be a simple gathering; there will be no band, nor will there be any big speeches. Instead, the emphasis will be on acknowledging the community the Independent has built, and will continue to build, by finally giving the Coachella Valley an honest, ethical, professional alternative news voice.

I hope you’ll join us. Come and say hello if we’ve never met.

Thanks, as always, for reading and being part of our Independent family. Also: Be sure to pick up the May 2016 print edition of the Coachella Valley Independent, now available at more than 370 locations valley-wide.

Published in Editor's Note

I was not having a good day.

I’d just dropped off my car at the dealership. I was looking at almost $500 in maintenance and repairs—at a time when my budget didn’t have that $500 to spare.

I’d planned on waiting for my car at the dealership, but the service adviser recommended that he call the shuttle to take me home. The work could take a while, he said. I agreed; after all, I had a lot of work I needed to get done.

As I sat in the customers’ lounge and waited for the shuttle to arrive, I looked out at the sunny sky and tried, unsuccessfully, to ward off the unpleasant mood that was settling in. My sad feelings were snowballing … stress, money worries, tiredness, etc. I was missing my husband, whose work has taken him to San Francisco—while I remain tied to the Coachella Valley thanks to my business. Worst of all, doubt was setting in.

Am I doing the right thing? Is all of this—the long hours, the tight budget, the absence from my husband—worth it?

My mental malaise was interrupted by the service adviser’s voice. “Hey, buddy. The shuttle’s here.”

I grabbed my computer bag, walked outside and climbed into the van. I was the only passenger. As we pulled onto East Palm Canyon Drive, the driver commented on the amazing weather we’ve been having.

“Yeah, it’s gorgeous,” I said. “Too bad I have to spend the day inside working.”

“Oh, yeah?” the driver responded. “What kind of work do you do?”

“I own a local newspaper, the Coachella Valley Independent.”

The driver’s eyes lit up as turned his head to look at me. “Really? I love the Independent! I pick it up all the time at one of the dealers.”

He went on to explain that the restaurant-news column was his favorite feature, because he gets news from it that he can find nowhere else. We spent the rest of the short drive chatting about food and restaurant gossip.

As the van pulled up to my apartment complex, the driver turned and shook my hand. “It was great to meet you,” he said. “I really appreciate what you do.”

The doubt that had been settling in was gone. This is why I do what I do.

Thank you very much, Mr. Shuttle Driver. Thanks also to everyone else who offers kind words and constructive criticism regarding the Independent. The comments always seem to come at the perfect time. Really.

As always, thanks for reading the Independent—and be sure to pick up the April 2016 print edition, being distributed at 375 locations valley-wide this week.

Published in Editor's Note

A round of applause, please, for all of the small-business owners out there.

The unfortunate struggles of small-business owners are at the center of at least two of our recent stories. The piece that serves as the cover story in our March print edition discloses some terrible news: At the end of March, Schmidy’s Tavern—a Palm Desert bar and restaurant that has been a haven for local musicians and craft-beer lovers—will close, barring some sort of miracle. Owner Dennis Ford told Brian Blueskye the main reason for the closure is the fact that Schmidy’s landlord, Realty Trust Group, wants to raise the rent 112 percent.

“I can’t sell enough beer to justify a 112 percent rent increase,” Ford said, explaining that when be bought Schmidy’s, the lease he inherited was a relic of the Great Recession—and now that the economy is better, his landlords think they can jack up the rent.

Improving economies giveth, and improving economies taketh away.

Government red tape can also cause small businesses problems. For such an example, turn to our newest Restaurant News Bites column, which explains the move of Bernie’s Supper Club—which burned down on Christmas Day 2014—from Palm Springs to Rancho Mirage.

For the better part of a year, the owners of Bernie’s tried to get construction going on a new building in the same location as the original Bernie’s, on East Palm Canyon drive just south of downtown. However, due in part to problems with city government, the owners finally gave up—and headed southeast to Rancho Mirage, moving to an existing building on Highway 111. Keep your fingers crossed for a late-spring opening.

It’s a proven fact that the more people spend at local businesses, the better it is for the local economy. Multiple studies and analyses have proven that far more money stays in town when said money is spent at a locally owned business instead of a chain or big-box store. While exact numbers vary from study to story, around 68 cents per dollar spent at an independent business stays locally—whereas only 48 cents stays in town when spent at a chain.

The message in all of this: Support and savor local businesses. You never know when a money-hungry landlord or an electrical fire will take away your favorite business—and you’re making the whole local economy better when you spend your hard-earned dollars at an independent business as opposed to a chain.

Thanks, as always, for reading. By the way, the March 2016 print edition of the Coachella Valley Independent is now on newsstands valley-wide.

Published in Editor's Note

We’ve reached that time of year when it seems like there’s a big-deal event happening almost every weekend—a time of year which feverishly continues until the Stagecoach music festival closes out “season” in late April/early May.

Two of February’s biggest local events revolve around art: Modernism Week and the Palm Springs Fine Art Fair. Of course, we’re previewing both goings on. First, Brian Blueskye has penned a fantastic feature on modernist artist Nat Reed (whose art graces the cover of the February print version) as an entree into Modernism Week. Second, we use art—what else?—to preview the goings-on at the Palm Springs Fine Art Fair.

However, our new arts coverage doesn’t end there. The valley’s theater season is in full swing, and you can peruse reviews of two shows that are on the current boards: Desert Rose’s Angels in America and CV Rep’s A Class Act. For the more literary-minded, I’d like to direct you to a book excerpt from Independent contributor Alexis Hunter. Joi Lansing: A Body to Die For is a fantastic read.

I also would be remiss if I didn’t mention some goings-on in our Food and Drink section. I am sorry to report this is the final Sniff the Cap column by Deidre Pike, who has been writing about wine for the Independent since our launch. (That is, unless I can talk her into staying. Hey, I gotta try.) Deidre has been a friend and colleague of mine for two decades now, and her words added so much to this newspaper; she’ll be missed.

In related news: We’re looking for a wine columnist! If you think you have the proper knowledge and writing chops, drop me a line; my email address is below.

I’d also like to thank arts writer Victor Barocas for all of his work for the Independent over the last two-plus years. He, too, is leaving the ranks of Independent contributors. (In related news, we’re looking for new visual/fine arts contributors; again, email me if interested.)

As we say goodbye to Deidre and Victor, we’re saying hello a new contributor: Sean Planck. He is now writing a monthly column for the Independent focusing on the local happenings regarding medical marijuana; catch the debut edition of Cannabis in the CV here.

As always, your feedback and comments are appreciated.

Thanks, as always, for reading the Coachella Valley Independent, be it online, or in our print edition; the February issue is now in 370-plus locations across the valley and high desert. Enjoy.

Published in Editor's Note

This was supposed to be a very different Note From the Editor.

I’d planned to write about our fabulously successful Best of Coachella Valley 2015-2016 party (see several photos below) and then discuss our January 2016 print-edition cover story, which was supposed to be about discrimination at a local institution. (We’re still working on that piece; look for it in the near future.)

However, all of that changed on Dec. 10, when my friend George Zander, a well-known community activist, suddenly passed away.

George and his husband, Chris, were attacked in downtown Palm Springs on Nov. 1 in what police are calling a hate crime. After a brief altercation with a man who used the word “faggot,” George and Chris were attacked by that man and another man moments later in front of Sherman’s. Chris suffered a concussion after taking a tire iron to the head. George suffered a broken hip in the scuffle.

Post-attack, things seemed to be going OK. Chris was recovering from his injuries; George’s hip surgery was successful, and he was home after stints in the hospital and a rehabilitation facility. The police think they’ve caught the perpetrators, and the community was beautifully rallying behind George and Chris.

But on the morning of Dec. 10, George was rushed to Desert Regional Medical Center due to an emergency. He was gone within minutes. Chris told the world via Facebook that George died in his arms.

What all of this means in terms of the prosecution of the thugs who allegedly did this remained to be determined as of our press deadline.

What it means to the community is heartbreak.

Here at the Independent, we shifted gears and decided to make George the topic of the cover story in the January 2016 print edition, which is hitting streets this week. Brian Blueskye did a fantastic job of showing all that George has done over the years to help the afflicted in the Coachella Valley.

I last saw George on Nov. 18, the day after the benefit show on behalf of the Zanders that the Independent put together with Chill Bar. He was still in the rehab facility at the time; he went home several days later. George was typical George: His spirits were high, and he was already plotting his next bit of activism, telling me about something he’d recently learned about that he thought deserved media attention.

Once the holiday craziness is behind us, I am going to pursue that story that George told me about. If what George told me is correct, and it probably is, it’ll be an excellent piece. Look for that soon.

In the meantime, enjoy a handful of photos from the Best of Coachella Valley 2015-2016 party below.

Published in Editor's Note

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